Police Members and their Oath of Office

Written by Harold McNeill on December 12th, 2015. Posted in Police Notebook, Tim Hortons Morning Posts


Oath of Office

Not only did these photo ops take place on the opposite sides of Canada, the police recruits being sworn in will be entering two very different policing worlds. Their employment adventure begins with the Oath of Office they have just swore or affirmed and from that first step, their careers will diverge in a significant way that can be traced to that Oath. The photographs actually provide a rather good visual example of that difference.

Photo Left (Web Source) RCMP Associate Commander Brian Brennan, personally welcomed officer Peter Wallace into the ranks of the RCMP in Nova Scotia, presenting him with his badge during a special swearing-in ceremony.

Photo Right (Web source) Chief Frank Eisner, right, shakes hands with Casey Jones, left, and Matthew King during a ceremony to welcome the two new constables to the Victoria Police Department.   (Photograph Adrian Lam, Times Colonist)

Background

As outlined in a related article, Dispensary Raids Galore!, those ‘discretionary’ raids and arrests at marihuana outlets in Nanaimo, Mission and Sechelt will waste an impressive amount of police and court time and will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in cases where the RCMP will eventually walk away empty handed.

It is almost certain the charges will not survive beyond 2016 and as mentioned in the earlier post, will again bring the RCMP and general administration of justice into disrepute. Heaven knows the RCMP have enough administrative scandals to deal with without creating more bad press by conducting heavy handed, senseless raids.

I do not envy the front line officers ordered to carry out those raids and arrest otherwise innocent citizens, but did theyOak Bay Police Chief Mark Fisher have a choice? If they had been with a Municipal or City force, perhaps, but in the RCMP, probably not. For that matter, did the Superintendent in charge and who ordered the raids have a choice? Probably not.

An historical example of a similar dilemma comes from the very force from which Superintendent Fisher (the man who ordered the raids) recently retired as Chief Constable (photo right). The Oak Bay incident occurred decades back when then Chief John Green, ordered his men to arrest a number of teachers who were walking a peaceful picket line outside the Oak Bay High School on Cranmore Road while the teachers were in a protracted battle with the Government of the day.

The Oak Bay members knew full well the Chief’s thinking on the application of the law was flawed and his heavy-handed approach could not be supported in principle or in court. Although members had experienced his merciless tirades over the years, the members stood up to him and respectfully refused to carry out the order. The Chief 461011bcaf5b5e723e897c33f049f169Constable was left storming and threatening disciplinary action as only an ex-Regimental Sergeant Major from World War II, could do. (1)

Photo (Archives): Chief John Green (Centre) and his men in 1966.  I don’t think those who refused to carry out his order were yet on the job, so those men were likely fairly junior at the time as was yours truly who is standing in the second row, far right.

Days, then weeks, passed by as the strike continued with peaceful protests, picket lines and one large multi-union protest parade along Government Street to the Legislature. The Oak Bay members never heard another peep from the Chief on their refusing his order to arrest as the Chief no doubt learned he would not only lose face after losing the disciplinary battle, he might very well lose his job.

Given Oak Bay officers (as with most police in Canada) as with all police forces back in those days operated with a highly militarized command structure and many senior officers were ex-military, those who challenged the order were to be commended for holding true to their Oath of Office rather than to a momentary whim of a senior officer. This brings us back to the case at hand.  Did either Superintendent Fisher or the members have a choice? This brings us back to the Oath of Office.

I think the Superintendent might have unless he was bound by an order coming from a higher authority, perhaps even the Office of the Commissioner of the RCMP.  In Mark Fisher’s time as Chief Constable, he was well respected Oak Bay and must have come to understand the differences between the two types of force (RCMP and Municipal). While in Oak Bay, I cannot imagine that with the marihuana laws about to expire, he would have ordered a marihuana shop in that Municipality to be raided and the employees arrested without a clear and present danger to the public.

Having worked with and socialized with many RCMP members over the years, it was my experience they were good men and women, but the challenge they faced on a daily basis, was working in a system that was extremely ‘rank’ conscience.  Several times the RCMP members would defer certain aspects of an investigation to their Municipal counterparts if what needed to be done was something that required approval from an officer at a much higher level, particularly at the Provincial or Federal level. Examples would include, surreptitious entries and crossing the US border.

It was my observation the officers with whom I worked were generally loath to step out of line by challenging an order or by acting on their own initiative when, when approval of a higher ranking authority was deemed necessary, but would be hard to get. To outright disobey was largely unthinkable, no matter the circumstance. Those who became more vigorous in their protests were soon relegated to the back waters, their careers effectively ended. Many of the men and women who leave the RCMP in favour of a City or Municipal force do so because of union protection and greater freedom to carry out their duties without being unduly restricted by the rank structure. Perhaps the Oath of Office would be a good starting point in the search for understanding the differences between RCMP and Municipal and City Police Officers.

Police Members and their Oath of Office

While discipline and a willingness to follow orders is implicit in any paramilitary organization, a police officers primary responsibility is to serve and protect the citizens of his or her community and the country in general. The essence of that commitment traces back to Sir Robert Peel and the Peelian Principles he developed in order to define an ethical police force. This short quote is taken from a larger article on the Peelian Principles:

“The approach expressed in the principles is commonly known as policing by consent in the United Kingdom and other countries such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand.[1][2][3][4]  In this model of policing – police officers are regarded as citizens in uniform. They exercise their powers to police their fellow citizens with the implicit consent of those fellow citizens. “Policing by consent” indicates that the legitimacy of policing in the eyes of the public is based upon a general consensus of support that follows from transparency about their powers, their integrity in exercising those powers and their accountability for doing so.[5]  

While the Oaths taken by Municipal and RCMP officers are similar in some respects, a significant difference emerges when comparing the oaths to the ideals expressed in the Peelian Principles:

 Municipal Officers swear serve and protect people and their property, the ideal embodied in the Peelian Principles: “I will, to the best of my power, cause the peace to be kept and prevent all offences against the persons and properties of Her Majesty’s subjects; and, I will, faithfully, honestly and impartially perform my duties as a Police Officer.”

RCMP Officers direct their oath towards the RCMP Act and the Chain of Command: “I will faithfully, diligently and impartially execute and perform the duties required of me as a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and will well and truly obey and perform all lawful orders and instructions that I receive…”  There is no reference what-so-ever to the Peelian Principles.

This difference between these Oaths of Office is not a trifling matter and might well explain a general trend within the RCMP to extend extreme deference to those higher in the chain of command be they a commissioned or non-commissioned officer. The Commissioner of the RCMP is, of course, the final authority in the Chain of Command , just as is the Chief in a Municipal Force. My experience suggests the RCMP Commissioner is a demigod as are his immediate subordinates above the rank of Superintendent.  To openly challenge the order of a senior officer at the Provincial or Federal level is not punishable by death, but it certainly implies the death of ones career in the RCMP. There have been plenty examples of this sprinkled along the path over the past several decades.

Can this at least partially account for what happened in Nanaimo, Sechelt and Mission?  I don’t know, but I certainly think it is a possibility.   Listed in the footer is the full text of the Oaths taken by Municipal and RCMP police members on joining their respective forces.

Harold McNeill
Detective Sergeant (Retired)
Oak Bay Police Department

Municipal Police Officer Oath of Office in British Columbia

To each of these questions, the response is: “I do so swear.”

I do [swear/solemnly affirm] that:

I will, be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors;

I will, to the best of my power, cause the peace to be kept and prevent all offences against the persons and properties of Her Majesty’s subjects;

I will, faithfully, honestly and impartially perform my duties as a Police Officer.

RCMP Officer Federal Oath

Note: In this oath, other than a solemn affirmation, add: So help me (Name of Deity)).

Oath of Allegiance: I do swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors.

Oath of Office: “I swear that I will faithfully, diligently and impartially execute and perform the duties required of  me as a member of the Royal  Canadian Mounted Police, and will well and truly obey and perform all lawful orders and instructions that I receive  as such, without fear, favour or affection of or toward any  person.”

Oath of Secrecy: “I do swear that I will not, without due authority, disclose or make known to any person not legally entitled to it any knowledge or information obtained by me in the course of my duties under the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act.

It is evident that significant portions of the two oaths place an entirely different focus on how members are expected to respond in carrying out their duties to the general public.  Does this account for the total difference between the two groups of police officers? Probably not, but I am thankful I joined a Municipal force rather than the RCMP, as I would not likely have lasted all that long in the RCMP.  More is spoken to this in the personal background provide in the following link below.

Harold McNeill
Retired Detective Sergeant
Oak Bay Police Department

Link here to:  Dispensary Raids Galore (the first part of this editorial)

Link here to RCMP Commissioner on the Wrong Track

Link here to Oversight of Police and Security Service

(1) Another lesser example of the manner in which the Chief Constable could be successfully confronted is written in the Post: Tickets, Tickets, Tickets. It is unlikely an RCMP Constable would take a chance by confronting a Superintendent in that manner.

(2) While on investigation, Conspiracy to Rob the BC Ferry Terminal as Swartz Bay), was one small example,

 

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Comments

  • Harold McNeill

    March 19, 2019 |

    Hi Dave. Not that I am aware and I have a fairly comprehensive family tree for the McNeill side of the family. I will pull it up and scan. Cheers, Harold. Great chatting with you and I will give Ben a nudge.

  • Dave Cassels

    March 16, 2019 |

    Were you related to Guy McNeill who owned the Bruin Inn in St. Albert in the late 40’s or early 50’s? Guy was a close friend of my father-in-law who was the first President of the Royal Glenora Club. My phone number is 780 940 1175. Thank you.

  • Harold McNeill

    March 15, 2019 |

    So glad you found the story and enjoyed. Indeed, they were memorable times. I did a fair amount of searching but never managed to contact any of the Murffit kids. However, it was neat to make contact with the Colony and someone I knew from back in the day. I have enjoyed writing these stories from back in the 1940s and 50s and have made contact with a lot of friends from those early years. I will give you a call over the weekend. Cheers, Harold

  • Yvonne (Couture) Richardson

    March 7, 2019 |

    I enjoyed your story. I too, lived in Pibroch in 1951, as my parents owned the hotel there. I was a very close friend of Bonnie Murfitt at the time. I moved to Edmonton in 1952, however, and have not seen her since. I would like to be in touch with you to talk about your story. My email is listed above and my phone number is 780-475-3873.

  • Laureen Kosch/Patry

    March 5, 2019 |

    I grew up in Pibroch and would not trade those years for anything. “ Kids don’t know how to play anymore” Never was a truer statement made. During the summer we were out the door by 8am, home for lunch, and back when it got dark. For the most part our only toys were our bikes and maybe a baseball mitt. I will never forget the times when all the kids got together in “Finks field” for a game of scrub baseball. Everybody was welcome, kids from 8 to 18. I didn’t know it then but I guess I had a childhood most dream of. Drove thru town last summer. It all looked a lot smaller.

  • Harold McNeill

    January 13, 2019 |

    Well, my dear, it’s that time again. How the years fly by and the little ones grow but try as you may you will have a hard time catching up to your Daddy. Lots of love young lady and may your day be special
    Love, Dad

  • Harold McNeill

    January 5, 2019 |

    Guess what? My response went to the Spam folder. Hmm, do you suppose the system is trying to tell me something?

  • Harold McNeill

    January 5, 2019 |

    Thanks, Terrance. Your comment came through but went to the Spam folder. Have pulled it out and approved. Can you send another on this post to see if you name is now removed from Spam? I’m not sure why it does that. Cheers, Harold

  • Terrance

    January 5, 2019 |

    A VERY COMPREHENSIVE ANALYSIS. ALL POLITICIANS SHOULD READ THIS.

  • Harold McNeill

    December 23, 2018 |

    Thanks Sis. I will be uploading as Hi-Def so the photos can be viewed full screen. Brother